if life was easy, would it be this good?

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Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. – Luke 9:23-24

Sometimes it’s a challenge to explain just how beautiful this part of North Carolina is in the springtime. This is our fourth April in Wake Forest, and Rebekah and I still pinch ourselves once in a while – sitting on the deck drinking coffee after breakfast – wondering just how it is that we ended up here.

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Azaleas coming out at Maul Hall

It’s not that life is easy – far from it – but that this journey we are on together is wonderful. Ministry is always demanding, frequently difficult, and often overwhelming; but the challenge is exactly what makes the experience so meaningful and rewarding. It’s just extra… dressing… gravy… to be doing it in such a beautiful place as North Carolina.

STORY: I tell a story in one of my books (I think it was “The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian”) of hiking out of a valley on the Appalachian Trail. Our path cut through the parking area at a scenic overlook a few hundred feet up, and I watched two carloads of people drive in, edge their vehicles as close as they could to the view, and peer out of their windows. One person jumped out for maybe thirty seconds to grab a quick photo on her phone, the rest stayed put.

The view was lovely.

Several hours later – having climbed a long, steep incline, forded a couple of rapid streams, stopped at a few more scenic outlooks, negotiated some recently toppled trees, detoured around a nest of copperheads, readjusted our heavy backpacks numerous times, and lost a couple of extra pounds in sweat – we cut through a seldom travelled side trail, emerging onto a rock outcrop where we found a ledge offering a spectacular panoramic view that would have been unimaginable from the comforts of the car back in the parking area.

We unpacked our lunches and took in the wonder of it all, resting and recharging before laying down another five miles or so before supper.

It struck me that this story illustrates the difference between showing up at church a couple of Sundays a month, and actually making the decision to follow Jesus as a disciple.

This is the journey that has brought us to Wake Forest, North Carolina. Sometimes we can sit out on the deck and breathe it all in, reenergized and grateful. But reenergized for what? Certainly not so we can coast our way in from here.

img_7706-001No, life is too wonderful, and too messy for that. Regardless, we are grateful… and challenged… and full… and journeying… and covered in goodness, mercy, grace, peace, and unquenchable love.

May God challenge each one of us, day by day, to see Jesus more clearly, love Jesus more dearly, and follow Jesus more nearly, day by day.

Day by day, oh, dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly, day by day

– DEREK

(a few random photos from this week)

living as Children of Promise in a difficult world…

Now we too, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. – Galatians 4:2

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leaving the hospital Thursday afternoon

So yesterday afternoon – in a quick update for those who are wondering – I was able to check my mum out from the hospital, and bring her back home next door. It was a long, grueling, often frustrating few days, full with tests and examinations and consultations, and the experience reminded me of A) what amazing resources, and care, and expertise we have at our disposal, and B) what an inexact science medicine is when it comes to understanding what’s going on in the human body!

The bottom line is that we now know a lot more about why my mother has not been feeling well, what to look for going forward, why going to the emergency room was exactly the right thing to do given her symptoms, and why we want to absolutely avoid being admitted to the hospital ever again if at all possible.

Faith and an easy life:

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my mother, more than ready to get out of there!

I also gained some more insight on how faith plays in to all this. Yes, I do believe that divine healing is something real that actually does happen in select circumstance; but – and this is an important point – we are mortal beings, we are susceptible to age and disease and decay, and our identity as Children of Promise (Galatians 4:2) is much bigger, far-reaching, challenging, and complete than good check-ups and an easy life.

In fact, I’d argue that accepting (and living into) my calling to be a disciple of Jesus is far more likely to set me up for a life of challenge than it is a life of ease.

We are Children of Promise in the sense that we are a Covenant People. Being in the hospital may be difficult and overwhelming, but the promise that we are not alone is completely secure. God does not steer us around the valley and the shadow, but God’s promise is, Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me” (Psalm 23:4).

These are words to live by; these are words to struggle by; these are words to struggle with; these are words to encourage us; these are words to give us courage.

Because what we need is not so much physical healing (even when we receive it it’s only temporary, even Lazarus died again later) what we need is courage. And courage is part of our identity as Children of Promise.

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Wake Med

What we need is not so much physical healing (even when we receive it it’s only temporary, even Lazarus died again later) what we need is courage. And courage is part of our identity as Children of Promise.

To live well is not to live pain free, and certainly not struggle free; to live well is to live into our identity as Children of Promise.

We are a people called to follow Jesus, called to live as God’s own children, called to represent light, and love, and hope, and grace. We are called to not only be disciples, but to look like – to be recognizable as – Children of Promise!

– DEREK